Route 66 Illinois Episode: Travels with Darley

Darley striking a post in front of Route 66 Mural Art
Darley striking a post in front of Route 66 Mural Art

Join Darley along Route 66 in Illinois on a road trip from Chicago to St. Louis to discover the “then and now” stories of attractions peppered along the route. From 1950s-style diners to American Indian sites to the old Joliet Prison, step back in time and take a modern spin along The Mother Road. Darley showcases the new attractions along the route, as well as renovations and additions made to existing classic attractions, giving both new and previous Route 66 travelers a reason to visit, and visit again.

Watch this episode on here starting in March (on Samsung, Apple TV, LG, Roku, Vizio, Sling, and much more) and on WTTW PBS Chicago March 31st at 6am and check your local listings for PBS times in your local market.

Darley starts in Chicago, Illinois at the street sign marking the beginning of the Historic Route 66. This includes stops at Buckingham Fountain and the Route 66 Playground in Burr Ridge. Darley visits White Fence Farm to taste their famous fried chicken and talks with owner Laura Hastert about her family business. Further down the road in Joliet, Illinois, Darley visits the Old Joliet Prison and meets Greg Peerbolte, CEO of the Old Joliet Prison Historic Site. Ronald Blazekovich picks Darley up in his classic car and heads over to the Polk-a-Dot Drive In, passing by the Gemini Giant in Wilmington along the way. 

Darley visits Ambler Becker Service Station, highlighting its 66-year history and restoration. The adventure continues with stops at Wally’s, the murals in downtown Pontiac, and the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum where Darley meets Rose Geralds, a volunteer docent. Darley explores historic sites in Normal, Illinois and meets Terri Ryburn, who championed the cause to restore Sprague’s Super Service Station. In Springfield, Illinois, Darley explores a joint called the Cozy Dog Drive In, run by Josh Waldmire, relative of Route 66 mural artist Bob Waldmire. 

After devouring a Cozy Dog, Darley visits Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s home, a national park site, where ranger Jasmine Leung shares about Lincoln’s life before becoming president. She explores the Route 66 Experience at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and Motorheads bar and grill, where owner Ron Metzger talks more about the memorabilia in the restaurant. 

After heading down Old Brick Road, Darley stops at Docs Just Off 66, restored by Casey Claypool, and enjoys some ice cream. Thirty minutes south of Docs, she stops at the oldest operating restaurant along Route 66: Ariston Café, where owner William Law shares the restaurant’s tender prime rib and why so many European travelers vie to dine at Ariston Cafe. She wanders through the Pink Elephant antiques mall, eats more ice cream, and talks with Mike Gassmann about the restoration of The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle. 

Derik Reiser invites Darley into Old Herald Brewery and Distillery to learn about Collinsville, Illinois, the horseradish capital of the world. At the West End Service Station in Edwardsville, Vernon Carver takes Darley through the nearby neighborhood in the sidecar of his motorcycle. The Route 66 adventure concludes outside of St. Louis, Missouri, where Darley stops at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and the old Chains of Rocks Bridge.

Learn more about this episode at and watch it on PBS and streaming. Follow and subscribe to the new “Travels with Darley” podcast on iHeart, Spotify, Audible, Amazon, Google, Apple, and wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.